Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 13 News List

Pop music not just for underachievers

Scottish band Camera Obscura plays in Taipei and Kaohsiung this weekend. The group’s lead singer and songwriter Tracyanne Campbell spoke with the ‘Taipei Times’ about the band’s upcoming album, John Peel and songwriting

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

She acknowledges the Velvet Underground as a past inspiration, but says the band has moved on. “I guess when you’re young and you’re that age you want to be in a rock and roll band and you want things to be very cool, and have fantastic guitars and brilliant haircuts and things like that … I mean, I am influenced by the Velvet Underground and I love the band, but there’s so much more to being in a group than just trying to imitate another band.”

The 34-year-old says nowadays she identifies more with music from her childhood, “people like my Gran used to listen to”: American pop and country singers from the 1960s like Skeeter Davis, Connie Francis and Sandy Posey.

As with these singers, many of Campbell’s songs revolve around heartbreak. In discussing her songwriting, she says the lyrics usually come first. “I tend to write things down … if something’s going on in my life, and I just want to write it down, it helps. I guess it’s a sort of therapeutic thing — those words, those lines and those paragraphs usually end up in a song … I don’t sit down with a melody and go ‘let’s come up with some words,’ I just write about how I feel.”

But for all the melancholy and self-deprecating musings in the music, Campbell is upbeat about the band’s future, and hopeful its members can quit their day jobs.

“[People think] that we’re probably loaded and don’t need to work but we do, and we’re hoping that this year will give us a chance for us to go full-time. You know we’re nearly there and I hope that we’ll get there this year, and I think we will.”

So if not indie-pop, how does Campbell describe her music to a general audience? “I hate this question,” she groaned. She’s sick of answering it. OK, then how would she describe it her grandmother?

“I’d say that she would really like it because it’s quite old-fashioned in a way, and it’s not to be played too loud and it’s not too noisy, and you can hear the words, hopefully — there’s a clarity to it. It’s tuneful, it’s melodic … um, yeah, something like that,” she said in a confident tone.

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